Mask liberation – easier for some than for others

Employers still insist on staff wearing masks “in several activities”

Saturday April 23, was the day, two days before Portugal celebrates “Liberty Day”, that masks were meant to be left at home.

But it hasn’t quite turned out like that.

A number of businesses are balking at the law change, insisting their staff continue to wear masks at all times.

Correio da Manhã has carried a double-page spread on this reaction, suggesting many are simply not ready to embrace their newly-decreed freedom.

Hairdressers, waiters and make-up artists” are three sectors highlighted by the paper, while pharmacies have suddenly crept in under the banner of ‘health services’ (albeit these were not mentioned by health minister Marta Temido on Thursday).

Large chains, like El Corte Inglés, as well as malls are still requiring staff to wear masks. In the Algarve, Intermarché in Aljezur sees all staff today told to keep wearing masks, whether they like it or not.

A young woman in a kiosk selling newspapers told us: “We have been told we may be allowed to stop wearing them on Tuesday (April 26). I cannot understand it. First we were told we had to wear masks because it was law, now that it isn’t, we are still told we have to wear them …”

Anyone out and about today will see masks continue to be widely worn.

Some restaurant chains have gone out of their way to insist on adherence to the new law – employers explaining they want clients to be able “to forget altogether about Covid”; others want waiting staff particularly to keep serving people fully-masked.

Commemorating “liberation” after what he considers to have been ‘an inexplicable delay’, deputy director of Correio da Manhã Paulo João Santossays the only thing missing now, which also should have happened a long time ago, is the resignation of health director Graça Freitas who has been “completely disauthorised by health minister Marta Temido”.

Ms Freitas said only recently that masks should remain on faces in schools throughout the summer term, stressing Portugal was still “a long way from having a relaxed summer”.

“If she hasn’t realised she has been in her role too long, the health minister has shown her door”, says Santos today, adding that “Graça Freitas’ entire performance throughout the pandemic has been a disaster – and when she was asked, finally, for lucidity and good sense, she simply stirred up fears and phantoms.

“Happily no-one listens to her anymore. Not even Marta Temido”, he says – although it is crystal clear today that many people are still hugely-affected by the morbid fixation of the last two years.

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